Greg Sheridan, of 'The Australian', reveals that he has still a great deal to learn about Islam
Greg Sheridan, the Foreign Editor of "The Australian", has written an op-ed which reveals a worrying failure to grasp that Islam is Islam is Islam, whether one is in South East Asia or in the 'Arab' world. Many of those commenting on his piece exhibit a similar disastrous lack of understanding; though not all.
'Arab Awakening or Dawn of Dark Age'
'These are the times that stir men's souls. We may be witnessing, in Cairo, Tunis and throughout the Arab world, one of the most momentous episodes in modern history.
Perhaps. But not necessarily in the way he thinks. - CM.
'Is this the beginning, at last, of the Arab awakening: to democracy and liberalism and responsible self-government?
Given the proliferation of 'honor' murders of females by their male kin, usually carried out on the flimsiest of manufactured or imaginary pretexts, throughout the region, one rather doubts that a population containing so very many men absolutely lacking any capacity to govern their passions - carnal lust and/ or murderous rage - could possibly be imagined to be able to govern themselves responsibly in any other sphere of life. An Arab Beduin Muslim, in Israel, shot and wounded his sister - he meant to kill her - because she posted some pictures of herself on a facebook page, that he deemed offensive to his own and the family's nonexistent 'honor'. Having committed the crime in Israel, of course, he was arrested for attempted murder; similar pride murders, or family executions, when carried out in Egypt, or Jordan, or Syria, usually receive no more than a token punishment. - CM.
'Or is it the beginning of a new Arab (sic: he should have written, 'Arab Muslim' - CM) dark age of Islamist fundamentalism?
My money's on the latter - CM.
'What is happening in Egypt and across Arab North Africa more generally represents a distinct new phase in the existential crisis of Arab civilisation'.
Arab civilisation?? Oxymoron of the week. - CM.
'The Arab encounter with modernisation has been catastrophic.
'In a region uniquely endowed with natural resources, the politics are feudal, the societies often squalid and divided, and the economies mostly decrepit.'
That's not the result of the 'encounter with modernisation', Mr Sheridan. That's the way the Muslim world has always been, more or less. Every honest non-Muslim historian and every honest outside observer who visited the region has observed and described those same problems. The 'feudal' politics, the squalid and divided societies (so often collapsing into mass-murderous internecine violence) and the decrepit economies, are it is the natural state of any society suffused with Islam. - CM.
'Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's failing dictator, naturally added his own touch to his country's predicament. Like Indonesia's Suharto, he stayed too long and he didn't provide a credible plan of succession. His rule is personalised, not systematic.
Par for the course for any Muslim despot, from Mohammed on. Indeed, 'succession by assassination' has been more the norm than the exception, in most Islamic entities, throughout history. For example: have you researched the 'cause' of the Sunni-Shia split, Mr Sheridan? - CM.
'It is telling that the social media - WikiLeaks infromation promulgated by Google, demonstrations organised by Facebook and Twitter - worked in Tunisia and Egypt, but not Iran.
'Compared with Iran, Egypt and Tunisia were relatively liberal.
Have a chat to the Copts, Mr Sheridan. And ask yourself how many Christians live in Tunisia, and whether any of them are converts from Islam. - CM.
'In Iran the regime was capable of bludgeoning, raping and killing large numbers of its citizens to stay in power, and willing to do so.
'Iran is an ideological, totalitarian regime. Egypt and Tunisia are ramshackle authoritarian regimes.
Iran, too, under the Shah and his predecessor, was once a ramshackle authoritarian regime rather similar to Egypt and Tunisia...CM.
'This shows, by the way, the sheer dishonesty of blaming their problems on America.
'Washington has always urged its Arab allies to liberalise. Without this American pressure, Egypt and Tunisia would have been more authoritarian and more able to resist popular pressure with brutal responses. Washington's enemies, Iran and Syria, are pretty effective in crowd control, in part because they don't have to worry about US reactions to their methods.
Why is Sheridan not mentioning the French influence upon Tunisia? - CM.
'One grim corollary of all this, however, is that it is more or less exclusively American allies (??? - CM) in the Arab world that are under threat today.
'Decades of Islamist conspiracy theories and anti-Western paranoia have had this perverse result: in many of these countries the governments, which have to deal with reality, are more liberal in foreign policy than are their populations. Do the majority of the Egyptian people, for example, actually support their government's peace treaty with Israel?
The answer is, of course, that they do not. Thank goodness that Mr Sheridan has at least enough commonsense to ask that question - CM.
'Analysts posit three obvious potential outcomes from Egypt's turmoil. These are the institution of liberal democracy; the consolidation of a new, probably military dictatorship; or the triumph of a radical Islamist regime led by the Muslim Brotherhood.
'Of course there are many shades of grey available, and at least two other major alternatives. One is ongoing crisis, unrest, and uncertainty, and another is a democratic but radically nationalist regime.
'Nationalist'?? Does he mean 'Arab supremacist', in the Nasserite style? - CM.
'The collapse of political Islamic moderation, from the Middle East to Pakistan to Turkey, is profoundly disturbing.
And now Mr Sheridan exposes the gaps in his understanding - CM.
'However, there is one region which is a serious exception, Southeast Asia.
Just wait and see, Mr Sheridan - CM.
'The two most democratic nations in Southeast Asia are its two big Muslim-majority nations, Indonesia and Malaysia.
'This may seem unfair to Thailand and the Philippines.
'But in Thailand there are too many coups, and in the Philippines too many journalists are killed (have you forgotten Balibo, Mr Sheridan? - CM), there are too many private militias and too many insurgencies.
You forget, Mr Sheridan, that it is the Muslims who are responsible for the greatest part of the political violence - and a good deal of the criminal activity - in both Thailand and the Philippines; that in the absence of the Muslim insurgencies (that is, the long-running Jihads) in both countries, public order and economic prosperity would likely be much improved. - CM.
'Malaysia is not a perfect democracy. The opposition doesn't get a fair shake from the media. But its elections are clean and several of its state governments are controlled by opposition parties.
'Above all, both Indonesia and Malaysia are legitimate nations with legitimate governments. If the people don't like their governments, they are more likely to try to change them at the ballot box than by riots.
Speaking of riots: I seem to recall that riots have taken place in both Indonesia and Malaysia in the not too distant past: Muslim riots, Muslim mob violence deliberately targeting members of the non-Muslim communities in those states, for the most part, and involving much pillaging, raping, and even episodes of mass murder. But presumably those sorts of riots don't register, with Mr Sheridan. - CM.
'East Asian regionalism has had a very good effect on these two nations because it has emphasised economic growth, whereas Middle East regionalism has reinforced autocracy and sterile religio-political rhetoric against Israel.
It appears Mr Sheridan didn't get the memo about Mr Mahathir's famously - and classically Islamically antisemitic - speech to the OIC conference in Malaysia, not so many years ago. - CM.
'Last week I had a long discussion with Malaysia's formidable Prime Minister, Najib Tun Razak.
To which discussion it appears that Mr Sheridan forgot to bring a long spoon.- CM.
'I asked him how it was that Malaysia had so comprehensively avoided acts of Islamist terror. He replied: "I like to think it's more than divine intervention. I think it's partly historical and partly it's our policy and our very proactive actions.
'From the historical perspective, the coming of Islam to this part of the world has never been associated with violence. It was always a peaceful conversion to Islam."
Mr Sheridan, do you really believe him? I would advise a reading of C Snouk Hurgronje's "The Acehnese" in conjunction with M A Khan's "Islamic Jihad: A Legacy of Forced Conversion, Imperialism and Slavery" which includes some illuminating material on the reality of the way in which Islam spread in S E Asia. - CM.
'Second, the way we have interpreted Islam, and applied Islam in a very moderate and progressive way. I would even call it an enlightened way. Islam is seen here as a religion of peace and understanding and able to relate to other religions. We've been able to put in place policies which allow the peaceful coexistence of other religions in this country."
So long as the Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, and Sikhs knuckle under and accept de facto dhimmitude, everything is just peachy. Next time you converse with Mr Razak, Mr Sheridan, ask him about Lina Joy, and whether she should be able to freely and publicly profess her Christian faith, and have her identity-card designation changed from 'Muslim' to 'Christian',and whether she should be permitted to publicly marry her Christian fiance, without incurring any adverse personal, economic, political or legal consequences whatsoever. - CM.
'Malaysia has substantial oil wealth, like many nations in the Middle East. But it has not rested on that resource. It has always pursued an open and diverse economy, and this has become a part of its national identity as well as its economic policy.
Mr Sheridan, next time you have a chat with Mr Razak, ask him to explain the bumiputra system to you, in detail. - CM.
'Says Najib: "I believe that Malaysia, indeed any society, to prosper should be open and should be fully engaged with the global economy.
"Malaysia survived the global financial crisis remarkably well. Najib offers three reasons for this: a robust and well regulated banking system (in a majority Muslim country? I would take this assertion with a heaping tablespoonful of salt - CM); an extremely large stimulus package; and a diverse economy such that when manufacturing fell it was compensated by commodities rising.
'It is a singular good fortune of Australia that our Muslim neighbours are two legitimate, practical-minded states (Mr Sheridan - I would remind you that the common expression 'to run amok', includes a native Malay word, and entered English during the period of British colonial rule in Malaysia. I would suggest you research the circumstances under which it entered our language, and the type of behaviour that it originally describes, and then ask yourself whether Malaysia and Indonesia can be assumed to be or to remain as 'legitimate' or 'practical minded' as you are asking us to believe - CM)
'focused on economic development in a broadly successful region.
'Indonesia and Malaysia could not be less like the states of the Middle East, though developments there will affect them too, which is one of the many reasons the roiling tumult in the Arab world is our business too."
One wonders whether Mr Sheridan has ever read V S Naipaul's "Among the Believers" and "Beyond Belief", which contain extended - and deeply disturbing - chapters on the subject of Islam and Muslims in Malaysia and Indonesia. It is hard to imagine that he could have, for if he had, he would surely be painting a far less rosy picture. - CM.